Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ruth Deming's Tips for Getting an MRI / Poem: Sciatica

On May 26, 2011, I got my MRI at Willow Grove Orthopaedics. They have an "open MRI" (see above pic from their website)

My friend Iris Arenson-Fuller is getting an MRI soon and knew I'd just had one, so she asked me for some tips.

Iris and I realize the immense importance of this new technology. My last MRI was of my lumbar spine to help determine if I'm a candidate for surgery. Obviously my pain is so excruciating I'm willing to undergo surgery. My pain threshold is quite high.

All of my MRIs have been done at Abington Memorial Hospital in Abington, PA. I had very positive experiences.

The last MRI, however, was done at an "Open MRI" facility in Willow Grove.


The most important thing is to establish a good relationship w/your technician. I explained to my tech, Craig Lawson, that I was really scared.

It's important to verbalize your feelings, w/o getting carried away. That will only cause more anxiety.

Everything you do in your MRI experience should be gauged to cause the minimum amount of anxiety.

To me this meant, Say your peace and get in the frigging machine ASAP.

I asked him if I could get out of the machine if I was too uncomfortable and he said Sure.

I reassured him and myself that I would be fine.

They give you EARPLUGS for the clanging noises the machine makes. Stick them in as tight as you can. The noise is fearsome! And for me, noise is the worst part of the experience, worse than the claustrophobic feeling.

When I first saw the machine, I wondered at the term "open MRI." It looked no different from any other of these machines.

Craig explained that once I was inside, I could crane my head over to my left and see light from the windows.

Barely! To me, it was absolutely no different from the other machines. My surgeon, Dr. Guy Lee, thinks otherwise of the Open MRIs.

Craig was wonderful. The room was freezing and he asked if I wanted a blanket. Sure, I said.

I found the Open MRI to be more restrictive than the other. After I lay on my back (Craig had kindly propped up my knees with a pillow, my pain is always excruciating) he placed a curving piece of plastic over my chest.

Dunno what it was for but needless to say it was extremely confining.

I was determined to come thru it like a champ.

How long will the whole thing take, I asked.

Twenty minutes, he said.

Not bad.

Yeah, until you get in there.

I asked Craig if I could do some stomach exercises once I got inside, (prescribed by my physical therapist), but he said, Better not, it could blur the images.

Okay, we begin. He's in an adjoining room and I'm rolling slowly up into the birth canal - oops! - into the MRI machine, which produces Magnetic waves and Radio waves.

He announced each procedure that he would do. His voice appeared somewhere in the huge room. See photo above.

Very helpful.

I couldn't hear him, so I'd shout WHAT? and he'd repeat it.

First thing he said was, Two series of three minutes each.

I lay there expectantly. Small clangs emanated right above me.

Not bad, I thought. Not bad at all.

Followed by the shockingly loud


Yes, I thought, this is why it's always so difficult.

My main tip to you, Dear Reader, is to bring a SCRIPT with you of Things to Discuss with Yourself while you're in the machine.

Think of pleasant things. Plan what you're gonna do when you get out of the machine. I envisioned myself walking back to my car, parked in a handicap zone, and I planned what to make for dinner.

Since I was pretty stressed while in the machine, I did a hand exercise my physical therapist gave me. After my kidney surgery on April 1, my hands were weak. I could barely write. How could I take notes for my articles?

I squeezed my hands hard and did a number of these while the machine clanged and banged.

Enormously helpful!

Most of all, BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. You can do it! The rewards of getting an MRI are enormous. First, you'll be proud of yourself. It'll be something to talk about w/your friends and family.

And, finally, it will lead to a diagnosis and treatment of what ails you.

PS - Here's one of my sciatica poems, the reason I'm gonna have back surgery.


Everything is shut down,
A purple curtain has been drawn
across the place I lie.
Books stacked on the floor
cannot be opened or even
acknowledged as friends.

The ring of the phone goes unanswered
The tump of the mailbox
is merely a sound,
a cqll to which I cannot reply.

For I am lying on the couch,
my new home,
The covers are puylled up to my eyes,
as if peace and softness
can vanquish the misery inside.

One day the leg is mine,
bending, obeying,
the next day it's a freak,
not leg so much as
folded-up ironing board,
hot with pain,
begging to be carried
or laid down to rest,
its sizzling miles of track
crackling at unexpected moments.

Just the two of us,
Pain and I,
lying side by side
under the covers,
an indecent pair,
A tireless lover
who won't leave my side.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing! You have this great ability to make a worthy piece of writing about anything. I am impressed but also grateful for your tips. Mine won't be an open MRI as our insurance will only pay for one at the hospital where my husband works and they don't have one there. I am debating with myself whether or not to cancel the appointment on Tues morning and find an open one and eat the cost of the co-pay but now there is a possiblity they may add lumbar and cervical spine so don't want to pay multiple co-pays. Anyway, that is not important. I love the idea of creating a script for myself to occupy my mind while in the machine. Interesting because I do that a lot with coaching clients, helping them develop self-talk they can use in unfamiliar or scary situatios but it never occurred to me to do this for myself in this situation. GRACIAS!!!

    I like the poem but I want you to be DONE with your sciatic pain and to finally have the chance to truly celebrate your new kidney and new life opportunities. I say, "Be Gone" sciata and good riddance. (sp??) You need a tireless love like that as much as you need to shave your head with a cheese grater (as my husband often says).